I had never tried French onion soup.
French onion soup is almost always made with beef broth, and since I’ve been a vegetarian since I was about 13 years old — which is long before most kids like anything other than eggs, cereal, pancakes, apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, peas, potatoes, peanut butter, jam, toast, sandwiches, rice, noodles, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, burgers, candy, cookies, and cake. So, by the time I was old enough to really appreciate food and stop thinking that onions were the devil, it was too late to try it.
I remember French onion soup, though — not mine, mind you, but a bowl my mom ordered in France, many, many years ago… the golden-brown cheese, the cracking sound it made as her spoon broke through the thick crust, the rich fragrance of caramelized onions…
This is why, when my friend started talking about the French onion soup she’d had at Tim Horton’s the other evening, this vivid memory came rushing back and I knew I finally had to try this soup myself.
Now that I’ve tasted this glorious soup, I really have to take a moment to stop and marvel at the elegance of French cooking. To me, French cuisine represents the ultimate in simple, yet delicious, food — so much of French cooking just takes the most basic of ingredients and applies time and heat in a way that brings out an unparalleled richness of flavour.
Now that I’ve tasted this glorious soup, I understand why it’s so popular! It’s rich, yet delicate, and wholly satisfying.
French Onion Soup with Gruyère (Vegetarian)
*adapted from Cookography
- 6 large yellow onions
- 4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 4 cups veggie stock
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch of dried thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
For crust topping
- a french baguette, cut into 1 cm slices
- plenty of shredded gruyère (or vegan substitute)
Prepare yourself to spend about 3 hours on this soup — I know it’s time consuming, but at least most of that time is just spent waiting.
Move an oven rack to the bottom third of your oven, then preheat your oven to 400°F (or 205°C). Grab a large, heat-safe pot with a lid.
Cut your onions vertically, right down the middle. Cut the halves into 2 cm thick vertical slices. Dump all the sliced onion into a large pot and top with 4 tablespoons butter, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks. If using olive oil, just drizzle it over top of the onions.
Use the lid to cover the onions and cook in the oven for 60 minutes.
After 60 minutes, use oven mitts and carefully remove the pot. Give the onions a stir, and then place the pot back in the oven, with the lid slightly open. Stir occasionally and cook for another 90 minutes or so, until the onions are tender, golden, and drowning in their own juice.
Remove the pot of cooked onions from the oven and place it on the stove top, but don’t turn off the oven quite yet!
Make sure to keep your oven mitts while you cook for the next little while — do not forget that your pot just came out of a 400° oven and burn the living hell out of your hand, like I did. Ouch.
Turn the stove top heat up to medium-high and saute the onions until all the excess liquid cooks off. If the onions start to burn, turn the heat down a little and continue stirring and cooking until the onions are very dark brown.
Add in a 1/2 cup of sherry and continue to cook and stir until all the liquid is absorbed.
Next, pour 4 cups of veggie stock and 2 cups of water into the pot. Add a bay leaf and a tiny pinch of dried thyme. Bring soup to a gentle simmer.
While the soup is simmering, slice your French baguette and shred your gruyère. Place your bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until the bread is dry, browned, and crispy. Set aside.
After simmering your French onion soup for 20 minutes, stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the soup into individual serving bowls, cover the top of the broth-filled bowls with croutons and shredded gruyère (or vegan substitute), which is the traditional cheese of choice for French onion soup, and then place the bowl under the broiler until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
And that’s that! And, now that I’ve made this glorious soup, I understand why it’s gotta be covered in bread and cheese.
Despite how amazing French onion soup tastes, I’ll tell you this — it sure as hell ain’t winning no beauty contest without being dressed with baguette and gruyère.
So, pile on that toasty bread, smother it with cheese, and enjoy this soup! Yum!